Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The R-Word

In the last post, Goehner talked about the 6 questions you should ask when evaluating a social awareness poster. I chose to post this campaign by the Special Olympics to challenge people not to use "retard" as slang because I think these posters are an excellent example of all 6 points.

1. Attract the attention of a viewer.

This poster definitely grabs your attention. Sure it's mostly by shocking you, but shock is a proven method in social awareness campaigns. The key is to shock with a purpose.

2. Hold the viewer’s attention long enough to read the content.

Because the text is so shocking it makes you curious to know their point and you keep reading. Notice though that there still isn't very much small text, just enough to explain and drive the point home. No one is going to stand there and read a huge block of tiny print, no matter how fabulous your hook is.

3. Evoke an emotional response.

The comparisons these posters make between retard and other offensive words you would never say makes you think of all of the times you've used retard that way. It's personal and convicting.

4. Encourage action.

The emotional response makes the challenge is immediate and clear: stop saying retard.

5. Give the viewer adequate information to act.

Since the action they are trying to evoke is immediate they don't have to provide extra information. By making you feel the offensiveness of the word they provided you with the information you needed. You don't have to go to a website or make any extra step at all which is why you're more likely to act.

6. Give the viewer something to take-away to contemplate.

I found this campaign a year ago when I was researching for my Graphic design 2 social awareness poster and I'm still contemplating it a year later... Impressive. Again, it's all in the emotional response.

The effectiveness of this campaign really is all tied to the emotional response it creates. It's what makes the poster memorable, it's what makes someone want to act, it's really what makes our poster worth anything. Clever style will never make up for lack of content in a social awareness poster. The style of these posters isn't particularly clever or original or emotional, but that's beside the point. What matters is that I remember these posters a year later and haven't said retard since.


  1. wow...these are really good. They are definitely attention grabbing and they hold it long enough for you to read the content of the poster. I find them successful because they are not just a commentary that's only purpose is to call names or place blame but they make you think about the content. That is more that a lot of campaigns are able to do. So overall, they are interesting, attention grabbing, thought provoking, and encourage you to act. They make me consider my part in fixing the problem at hand.

  2. Holy crap. Sorry to be so straight to the point, but how true is this in today's society. Just think about how many time's we just said retard today. My favorite is by far the last one. All of them have strong typographical hierarchy. They state just a usual phrase, but then they add the said the Chink to the faggot. Blew me away. We use the phrase so openly when we do not realize how many peoples' families are interlaced with mentally disabled (is that the correct terminology) children or people. Defiantly draws your inetnetion and wants you to do more in the near future.

  3. Actually Mitchell, since you asked, that is not quite the correct terminology. You never use "mentally disabled" or their actual condition as an adjective. It's called "people first" technique. Instead you would say children with mental disabilities or people who have mental disabilities. You don't make the disibility the identifing factor.
    I worked with children with various disabilities for quite some time, and this was always emphasized.
    I'm not trying to be a jerk and correct you, but you asked, so I thought I'd tell you. You learned something new today. yay!

    That being said, I understand how these posters can be very thought provoking and convicting. But, they really just don't do anything for me. But I think that this is just based on my background. I grew up in a very nice and friendly environment. There were no racial tensions, and homosexuals weren't really discriminated against. People used words like "faggot" and "the N-word" and no one was ever really offended by it. For the longest time I thought "Jap" was just a cool, short nickname for the Japanese. I had no idea it was offensive.

    So, I'm probably not the best person to critique these posters, but since I have to post once a week, here I am.

    Now that I'm done babbling, here's my real critique:
    I like the last two, the way they compare "retard" with other "horrible" words. But I wonder how effective the first one is. Maybe I'm just ignorant, but I'm pretty sure no one under the age of 30 would even think of the phrase "tar baby". I mean, sure, we recognize it, but it's not a familiar term for us. I feel that because the terms they are comparing "retard" to are so outdated, that this is directed to an older, adult audience. But I've never heard anyone over 30 say "that's retarded". So, I think that maybe that particular poster is directed to the wrong people.
    But like I said, I'm quite ignorant when it comes to these things.

  4. These are great posters, and I think they are really effective in all six of the points listed. This is definitely an issue that needs to be brought up more. I think the top right poster is the most effective. I was still able to get the message for the other two, but it was a little confusing at first. However, this could be a really good strategy for this campaign. Instead of just scanning the poster for a brief moment, It made me stop and think and realize what the message was.

  5. wow. talk about moving. these posters are really effective in conveying that although we don't see using the word "retard" as politically incorrect because it isn't referring to a race or commonly used term for homosexuals, it still IS offensive. I used to use the word "retarded" a lot in high school saying a certain assignment was retarded, or someone was acting like a retard. I never fully saw how it actually effected anyone until one of my teachers had a mentally retarded daughter. I felt awful after that and watched myself much closer on what I said. This poster makes you think about such a commonly used term that has such a deeper meaning than what everyone assumes. I think it is a powerful message that would cause people to realize what they are actually saying and meaning. The images in the design itself I think aren't that bold and come off more as a horrific/terrifying children. I think a more innocent picture would have worked better. The images just remind me of a scary movie is all.

  6. I'm having a mixed reaction to these. They do have an emotional impact in that they make me very uncomfortable (for me its all in the image, not the words). However, my gut response to that emotion is simply to look away and ignore them, not to change my ways. One could argue it's a bit self-convicting that one would rather gloss over the issue instead of doing something about it, but I find it's still not convicting enough to enact change. Ignorance is bliss as it were.

    As for the actual pieces, I find I prefer the blue one the most. The wording seems to be the most effective at getting the point across. Admittedly the imagery there is also the most comfortable. The yellow one...kind of works (only half get it). The pink one goes entirely over my head honestly. For their sake I hope that just means I'm out of their target audience.

  7. I'm kind of with Caleb as far as the images go. At least for the pink one. The way the designer edited this photo makes me think of a demon-child from a horror movie, the way her eyes are hollowed out and black. It kind of creeps me out and makes me not want to read the poster. The others aren't so bad, but I'm not a fan of the pink picture.